As much of America celebrated “Independence Day” on Monday with barbecues and fireworks and general revelry, WBNA player Brittney Griner sent a devastating letter to President Joe Biden from her detainment in Russia, begging him to stand up for her freedom, too.
Most of the letter was for the president’s eyes only, but representatives for Griner shared a few gutting excerpts with the press. Here they are in full:
“...as I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever,” Griner wrote.
“On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War Veteran. It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.”
“I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American Detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home. I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore. I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home.”
Griner’s criminal trial began on Friday in Moscow. The 6-foot-9 Phoenix Mercury player, who plays in Russia during her off-season, is accused of carrying less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage. In an interview with CNN last week, Griner’s wife, Cherelle, said Griner is being transported in a “very, very, very tiny cage” on the five-hour drive to and from court.
She added that she does not believe the government is putting the “maximum amount of effort” into getting her wife home. “I have to also push people to make sure that things that they’re telling me is also matching their action,” she said. “I can’t let up, it’s over 130 days and BG’s still not back.”
The Biden administration says it’s “actively” engaged in efforts to bring Brittney home.
“[The case] has the fullest attention of the president and every senior member of his national security and diplomatic team, and we are actively working to find a resolution to this case and will continue to do so without rest until we get Brittney safely home,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said last week.
But the federal government dropped the ball last month when Cherelle was supposed to connect with her wife on the phone. As Jezebel’s Emily Leibert wrote on Friday:
The U.S. recently failed to connect Brittney and Cherelle Griner’s scheduled phone call due to an administrative error, and the two have been communicating solely via written letters ever since. After seeing disturbing photos of her wife in court, Cherelle said her wife had reassured her that detention hadn’t driven her crazy, though she is exhausted and overwhelmed by the number of people present in the courtroom.
Leading up to the trial, TJ Quinn of ESPN has reported that experts believe Griner is the subject of a “show trial”—a tactic to force the Biden administration into negotiation or a prisoner swap— and that a guilty verdict should not come as a surprise. The Russian judicial system does not use a jury outside of “the most serious felonies,” and anxious American citizens should be prepared for little more than a “recitation of facts” during the trial, he said. Other experts told ESPN that despite the outpouring of calls for Griner’s release, the best defense is often admitting guilt in order to move the process along as swiftly as possible, as Russian judges are sometimes removed from office if they acquit too many defendants.
There is very little else to say here beyond the obvious: Griner is a political hostage in an absolutely terrifying country at war. She did nothing to deserve this. We have not forgotten about her and will never stop demanding her release until she is home.